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Long Term Care Options: Making The Decision That’s Best For You

The normal aging process presents challenges that are both widespread and ongoing. Even absent progressive, age-related illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s, seniors often develop needs that exceed their loved one’s ability to care for them. Although there are various options in in-home support that make family caregiving easier, there may come a time when you have to choose a suitable long-term care facility for your parent, spouse, or other elderly family members. Working with an attorney is an excellent way to navigate the many legal hurdles you’re likely to face as you consider and pursue the following long-term care options.

There Are Six Primary Long-Term Care Options

Long-term care facilities and their services are intended to be flexible and scalable. The level of health and independence that aging adults possess when entering these environments is expected to decrease over time steadily. Changes in memory, cognition, balance, and coordination will gradually necessitate higher levels of support. Thus, as you consider the following options, it’s essential to account for both the present and future condition of your loved one. Choosing a location flexible enough to meet their needs several months or years down the road will make it unnecessary to search for a new home within a relatively nominal amount of time. Each long-term care option you have access to is defined mainly by the level of support they provide and their target needs.

Assisted Living Communities Rank Among the Best Long-Term Care Options for Advanced Needs

An assisted living community may be the best choice for your loved one if they can no longer get into and out of the bath on their own, cook for themselves, or handle basic household chores. Aging adults live primarily independent lives while always having access to the right type and level of support.

Choose Continuous Care Retirement Communities for Seniors With Fluctuating Needs

The progression of age-related illnesses isn’t always linear. At times, many aging adults are in excellent health and are perfectly capable of caring for themselves. In others, problems like inflammation, increased medication dependence, or temporary changes in balance or cognition make them unfit to care for themselves. Continuous care retirement communities offer assisted living, nursing care, and independent living options. Seniors can take advantage of each support type as needed and according to their current conditions.

General Retirement Communities are Perfect for Aging Adults in Good Health and With Other Support Types

General retirement communities are ideally suited for senior adults who are still in relatively good mental and physical health. These locations offer secure but completely independent living where seniors have access to a diverse range of recreational activities and social opportunities.

Independent Living Communities Are an Excellent Choice During the Formative Stages of the Aging Process

Independent living communities offer more support than general retirement communities. Although seniors still have their own private living spaces and complete autonomy, they also have access to onsite medical care, transportation support, and on-campus dining or other meal support.

Skilled Nursing Facilities Offer Short-Term Care for Seniors With Advanced Needs

Despite often being used interchangeably, skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes are two very different things. Nursing homes offer long-term care for seniors with advanced needs, while skilled nursing facilities typically house seniors with temporary health issues that require constant monitoring and support. Your loved one may need to be in a skilled nursing facility if they have or are recovering from a severe illness, have just undergone surgery such as a hip replacement, or require professional detox and weaning services for prescription pill addiction.

Nursing Homes Offer Targeted End-of-Life Care and the Most Comprehensive Level of Support

Nursing homes assist with toileting, bathing, dressing, feeding, and more. They are the ideal choice for aging adults with dementia, advanced Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s symptoms, or substantial changes in coordination, speech, balance, and general functioning. These locations also offer targeted end-of-life care and strive to make day-to-day life as comfortable as possible for aging adults whose bodies are shutting down.

How an Attorney Can Help You Find and Leverage the Best Long-Term Care Options for Your Loved One

Discussing with aging relatives about long-term care is rarely easy, but it’s always important. If your senior family member is still cognizant and capable of making decisions, you want to take action now to complete their end-of-life planning. For many seniors, there is a concise window of opportunity where they can actively participate in these conversations and make informed and cognizant choices concerning their own welfare. Working with an estate planning attorney will help you navigate this challenging process together so that no critical needs or issues are overlooked. An attorney can help you and your loved one:

  1. Draft a living will so that all heirs and beneficiaries are duly named, and all assets are disbursed as desired upon your loved one’s death
  2. Establish durable power of attorney so that you or another trusted party can make important financial and medical decisions for your loved one
  3. Create advance medical directives so that aging adults can choose which life-saving measures they do or do not want to be performed
  4. Establish a trust for ongoing asset management

The longer aging adults and their families delay these essential steps, the more difficult it is to complete them. Contacting an attorney today will make these critical tasks infinitely easier for everyone while you’re still considering your long-term care options and while your loved one is still able to participate in the decision-making process.

How can I avoid elderly abuse when choosing a long-term care facility?

When considering the types of care provided by various long-term care options, be sure to look at their ratings and reviews. Always choose licensed, well-rated establishments that perform thorough criminal background checks on all employees.

What if my loved one doesn’t want to enter a long-term care facility but can no longer care for themselves?

If your loved one wants to continue living on their own but can no longer do so safely, you may need to establish legal guardianship/conservatorship of them. This is the only way legally to choose a long-term care option for someone who isn’t ready to give up their independence but is endangering themselves by refusing to do so.

What if my siblings disagree with the long-term care decisions that I’m making for our parent(s)?

The adult child with the durable power of attorney or an established conservatorship has the right to make crucial decisions for a senior parent without question. Notwithstanding this fact, family counseling or working with a mediator can help siblings communicate about the decision-making process and choose long-term care options that everyone feels good about.

Author Bio

Paul Yokabitus

Paul Yokabitus is the CEO and Managing Partner of Cary Estate Planning, a Cary, NC, estate planning law firm. With years of experience in estate and elder law, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including estate planning, guardianship, Medicaid planning, estate administration, and other cases.

Paul received his Juris Doctor from the Campbell University School of Law and is a North Carolina Bar Association member. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named among the “Best Attorney in Cary” in 2016 and 2017 by Cary News and Rising Star in 2020-2023 by Super Lawyers.

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